Ugandan children’s choir visits Macon

pramati@macon.comFebruary 5, 2013 

Coming from a land that has seen more than its fair share of war, poverty and sickness, the Watoto Children’s Choir of Uganda visited Macon on Tuesday to spread a message of hope.

Watoto, which means “children” in Swahili, performed Tuesday night at Saint Paul AME Church on Shurling Drive.

Formed nearly 20 years ago, the choir has traveled the world to raise awareness of the plight of children in Africa and to raise money for the children who have found themselves orphaned because of war and the ravages of an HIV/AIDS epidemic. The choir also affords the children -- ages 8 to 14 -- a chance to see the world.

“The main aim is to educate people on the plight of what’s going on at home,” said Gideon Kizito, who serves as the tour’s leader. “We want to raise support and partnerships with other entities. We’re trying to get support one way or another.”

Helen Vinson, who organized Watoto’s appearance in Macon, said the church didn’t charge for tickets but “love offerings” were welcomed for Watoto to support the work the organization does.

“There’s no goal (in money raised),” she said. “We’re calling it a love offering, and we hope it will be substantial. It goes directly to their country.”

Kizito said Watoto supports about 3,000 orphans as well as women suffering from HIV and AIDS. The organization has created children’s villages which hold eight children to a home, plus a house mother. It has created small villages that include clinics, schools and other necessities. The organization supports the children through college.

“It’s more than an organization or a choir,” Kizito said. “It’s a church. We care for the needs in the community. There are 2,200 HIV-positive in our care. We give them income-earning skills and housing.”

Kizito said his country has suffered after years of civil war, and many of the children in the villages were kidnapped by rebels after their parents were killed. The clinics even offer reconstructive surgery to the women and children who were mutilated in the war, he said.

The choir is in the middle of a seven-month tour of the eastern United States and will head to Brazil next month. The tour gives the 22 children in the group the opportunity to see and learn things they might never experience in Uganda.

Edwin Trevor, 10, said his favorite stop on the tour was New York City, because of all the tall buildings. Brenda Namakula, also 10, said her favorite food is pizza.

“We got to see snow in Pennsylvania,” she said. “It was nice.”

She said she hopes people take time to learn about her country.

“Uganda is a nice country,” she said. “The people are nice.”

To learn more about the choir, visit www.watoto.com.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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